Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine / Volume 2, Number 5 / May 1, 1995 / Page 7

The Cutting Edge

Your Oasis On The Net

by Chris Lapham (

THE news at Mecklermedia's Internet World Conference in California was Compuserve's announcement of the details of its new Internet software, services, and pricing. The announcement follows CompuServe's acquistion of SPRY, a developer of Internet access applications. CompuServe was long been the favorite online service of business executives and is now reaching out to attract the ever-growing market for Internet access and services.

The company claims to have cut through the hype to "become your premier one-stop shop for Internet access and services." From it's well designed Web site to its introduction of an AARP forum, CompuServe is clearly catering to Internet newbies who want their cruising, browsing, and searching to be easy,fast, and fun. The company claims to have the most competitive Internet pricing and in a move sure to please current subscribers, provides free, full Internet access and Web browsing software. CompuServe's current pricing plan includes three free hours of Internet access per month for $9.95, as well as unlimited access to 120 basic services. After the first three, additional hours cost $2.50 per hour, the lowest rate among online service providers.

The company also announced other Internet-related services including free distribution of the CompuServe NetLauncher, a software product providing one-step access to the WWW via SPRY Mosiac and a full Internet connection using the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) that is open to users of any operating system or platform.

CompuServe's Web browser and comprehensive Internet access have broad, sweeping implications for the WWW and the Internet: CompuServe has 2.8 million users who access the service from more than 150 countries. When Prodigy provided Web access, their membership rose dramatically and it is safe to assume that the same thing will happen now with CompuServe. That means millions more people willi soon be cruising the Web.

Easy Entry is the Draw

In January 1995, Prodigy began offering members direct access to the WWW. Within a single week, approximately 75,000 Prodigy members had begun using the WWW access service, one of it's fastest gains ever. To date, Prodigy claims more than 400,000 Web users, making it the largest single dial-up access provider of Web servers . . . until now.

The three major online commercial services -- CompuServe, America Online (AOL), and Prodigy -- have recognized the attraction and potential of the WWW: CompuServe and Prodigy now provide access to Windows users, and Prodigy has an attractive Web site called Astranet.

AOL's browser for both Mac and PCs is expected within the next two months. The services are taking a risk by opening up the gates to the WWW for consumers, who may find the services and features of the commercial services limited when compared to the vast resources of the Web. However, they have captured a vital market by offering the easiest entry to the Web--no downloading and installing browsers, setting up SLIP connections, or paying access providers.

Sweetening The Pie

In addition to providing easy entry to the WWW, CompuServe is upgrading its global data network. Beginning May first, the service will convert its existing ports to 28.8 kilobit-per-second (KBPS) local dial access. "For CompuServe's 2.8 million Information Service members worldwide, 28.8 kbps dial access provides tremendous opportunities for accessing more information at a lower overall cost," says Barry Berkov, a CompuServe executive vice president. "Higher bandwidth will also open the door for consumers to transaction services, the ability to receive online music, graphics and video, and increased software distribution capabilities across our secure network."

According to a report in the May first issue of Fortune Magazine, CompuServe is the world's number one online service, and the only major online service to turn a profit. Most of that profit comes from business users. But their latest (and greatest?) new service is something purely fun called WorldsAway. "Rather than merely exchanging typed messages with others, subscribers will be able to assume the persona of a cartoon character (called an avatar) on screen. You can prompt your character to step into a "private" area to chat.," says Fortune's David Kirkpatrick.

Selling Out or Smartening Up: Yahoo Goes Commercial

In many ways, Yahoo is a dream come true. Like many success stories, the popular Web site started in April, 1994 as a hobby of two Stanford doctoral students, David Filo and Jerry Yang. Believing that "The Internet has become the digital equivalent of the largest library in the world where the card catalog has been strewn across the floor," the two set out to make things easier for Internet travelers. They developed customized software to help readers efficiently locate, identify and edit material stored on the Internet.

Yahoo, which stands for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle, filled a very real need and so quickly became one of the most popular sites on the WWW (witness the links from a multitude of home pages). The site's creators estimate that about one million Websters now visit the site each week. In early 1995, Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape Communication invited Filo and Yang to move Yahoo to Netscape's servers.

Like most great ideas that start as hobbies and become wildly popular, the next move was (you guessed it) commercial support. The chief yahoos made the announcement at the Internet World Conference which coincidentially marked their one-year anniversary. Yahoo's financing will come from Sequoia Capital, a venture capital fund that has backed other Silicon Valley successes -- Apple Computer, cisco Systems, Global Village Communications and Electronic Arts.

What the Chief Yahoos Say

"As Yahoo quickly grew from an idea to a part-time interest to a full-time passion, Dave and I realized that we needed additional resources to keep our vision for Yahoo alive," says Yahoo co-creator Jerry Yang. "We wanted to maintain our independence, so we concentrated on venture companies for financing. We are committed to keeping Yahoo free for the end-user, while continuing to add enhancement and maintaining our own editorial flavors," says Yang. Both Yang and Filo have taken a leave of absence from Stanford to run Yahoo full-time.

Industry experts and Websters in general will be keeping a sharp eye on this quintessential Web site to see what changes and improvements will be made. For many Webmasters struggling with the issues surrounding financial support (ie: advertising), Yahoo will set an important precedence that others are sure to follow.

'96 First Olympics on the Web

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) announced at the Internet World Conference that it would create a WWW server for the games next summer. Developed with IBM, the worldwide information technology sponsor for the Olympics, the ACOG's server official Internet source of information on the '96 games.

The Olympic committee's announcement follows the growing trend toward more more innovative and interactive sports coverage and information on the Web. This year's Master's Tournament, the NCAA's Final Four tournament, and the America's Cup all had a Web presence. In fact, Delphi Internet Services teamed with PACT 95, one of the America's Cup competitors, to launch its Young America Electronic Adventure , an educational service.

According to a report in Web Week, former Sun microsoft engineers have teamed up to publish Golfweb. Planned features include real-time reporting from tournaments and processing of e-cash. Next, we'll see more fantasy sports as online entities try to lure the "stats freaks" into the wired world. ¤

Chris Lapham, Chief Correspondent for CMC Magazine, is a freelance writer and reporter who lives in the Capital Region of New York. She is currently completing a Master's degree in Communication and Rhetoric at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

Copywright © 1995 by Chris Lapham. All Rights Reserved.

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